Sonya Lara

How to Prove You’re Your Father’s Daughter at the Nurses’ Station


Sonya Lara is an Editor-at-Large for Cleaver Magazine, Managing Editor for The New River, and an MFA poetry candidate at Virginia Tech. In 2019, she was the Managing Editor for the minnesota review. She also served as the Associate Fiction Editor for The Madison Review at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she received her BA in English-Creative Writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Voices, Wisconsin’s Best Emerging Poets: An Anthology, Trestle TiesHeavy Feather Review, ENTROPY, Homology Lit, AGNI, and The Los Angeles Review. For more information, visit

Turn your head to the side and brush the curvature of your nose
how your grandma traced you and your father’s profiles into the same line
during her visit from Mexico. When the nurse plucks a single hair to count
your Mexican genes, do not wince or yell out in Spanish,
let her examine the smallest part of you as she takes her time
asking if you know the number of his hospital room. 

Offer to show her your small palm, the room 
between your wrinkles sparse, how everyone knows
you’ve lived many lives before this, that last time
God told you you should’ve gone to Hell, the line
between debt and forgiveness so thin priests in Spanish
tell you your good deeds in this life do not count. 
Stick out your tongue and tilt your head back as she counts
your silver fillings to determine your worth, the room 
growing dark as your hold your breath, Spanish
swear words drowned in saliva, your nose
secretly inhaling air to keep from passing out, the line 
of her finger like a barrel of a gun frozen in time. 

Take off your coat and wonder if he’ll remember you this time, 
if you should remind him it’s your birthday, if 25 counts
as a reason to celebrate, if you can force a smile out of a broken line
of lips, if you can persuade the nurse to let you go to his room,
if you can ignore her when she says she knows, or think she knows,
that your lips have never moved to speak Spanish. 

Explain your mother’s mistake, that your name is Spanish
that the “y” was supposed to be an “i”, how at the time
she was too tired to remember, how your father knows
he should’ve been there, how he can still count
the seconds he gripped the steering wheel instead of your newborn hand, the room
in his garbage truck swallowing him, his forehead etching another line. 

Do not look the nurse in the eyes as you think back to the preschool incident, the line
of your father having to prove himself crossed, how his English and Spanish
vocabulary made the teacher hand him the other little Mexican girl in the room,
how that little girl’s screams that she didn’t know him slowed time,
the stares of other parents labeling him a criminal, how your declaration of “daddy” didn’t count
until the teacher called your mother to confirm, her odd smile an apology saying she now knows. 

And when the nurse’s questions become too much, the room full of people waiting in line
behind you staring, breathe out your nose and hum your favorite song in Spanish
as your driver’s license rewinds time and makes your claim as your father’s daughter count.

© The Acentos Review 2021